This review looks specifically at hiking as a beneficial activity for patients with diabetes, as compared to some of the conventional exercise programmes.
Exercise has many physiological and psychological benefits for people with and without diabetes.
Despite the tremendous health benefits associated with activity, there is still hesitation from patients with diabetes to participate in fitness programmes; this is attributed to both physical and mental barriers that hinder these patients from participating.
For the past several decades, outdoor activities such as hiking have seen a surge in popularity.
Hiking boasts many healthy intrinsic characteristics that make it an ideal activity for diabetic patients, particularly for metabolic, psychological and balance benefits.
Hiking is an activity that readily burns calories – approximately 210 calories per 30 minutes in a male who weighs 70 kgs.
If performed in hilly terrain, hiking increases the metabolic demand and partly acts as a good resistance exercise as one propels themselves up and down the hills.
Hiking, unlike running, incorporates double-support periods in the gait cycle; it can be considered as a low-impact activity with smaller ground reaction forces.
It also provides important physical challenges in the form of irregular surfaces, which helps train muscles better to deal with everyday stresses to the musculoskeletal system, balance and core – this can benefit the diabetic population.
The other benefits stated by the authors include balance training, reduction in repetitive ground reaction forces and hot spots, provision of a lower impact surface, an improved cardiovascular and core workout.
Hiking does, however, present unique general and podiatric medical challenges, such as an uneven surface and increased ambulation, that must be addressed for hikers with diabetes.
These concerns and challenges can easily be countered with the use of trekking poles.
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